08/26/18 Martin Lee

This week on Century, part two of our exclusive coverage of Seattle Hempfest 2018, with audio from journalist Martin Lee, co-founder and director of Project CBD; Joelle Puccio, a registered nurse and harm reduction advocate; and Michele Bedard-Gilligan, PhD, a professor at the University of Washington and principal investigator for Project STEP.

Program: 
Century of Lies
Date: 
Sunday, August 26, 2018
Guest: 
Martin Lee
Organization: 
Project CBD
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TRANSCRIPT

CENTURY OF LIES

AUGUST 26, 2018

DEAN BECKER: The failure of drug war is glaringly obvious to judges, cops, wardens, prosecutors, and millions more now calling for decriminalization, legalization, the end of prohibition. Let us investigate the Century Of Lies.

DOUG MCVAY: Welcome to Century Of Lies. I'm your host Doug McVay, editor of DrugWarFacts.org.

This week, part two of our coverage of Seattle Hempfest 2018. This was the 27th annual Seattle Hempfest. It’s the world’s largest protestival, with three days of music and politics at the largest cannabis convocation in the world. It’s held on a long, narrow strip of park land that’s right on the beautiful Puget Sound, always on the third weekend of August. As always you can find information about Hempfest at their website, hempfest.org.

Seattle Hempfest always brings together some of the best and brightest marijuana activists and reform advocates in the country, and this year was no exception. One of the speakers at this year’s Hempfest was the writer and journalist Martin Lee. Martin is the co-founder and director of Project CBD, on the web at ProjectCBD.org. We had a good, wide-ranging conversation late in the afternoon on Saturday. Here’s part of that.

MARTIN LEE: -- cannabis industry, I mean, you know, a kind of money morality, whatever that means, just sort of dull, as far as I'm concerned. I'm not trying to put it all down or anything like that, but it's nice to be reminded that it's not just about -- that there is a community here, and that the efforts to legalize were not driven by financial interests, for many, many years, they were driven by concern for human rights, civil rights, social justice.

And now, the energy for that has been in some ways overtaken by the, you know, business thing. Which, definitely, it's bringing it over the line, it's, you know -- every development like this is always fraught with contradictions and pros and cons. Hempfest reminds you that community is very important, and cannabis is a healing thing. It's a healing plant.

There's a level at which, it's a community building botanical. It draws people together. And that's a part of its healing, that is, you know, not -- certainly not at the forefront of, you know, selling this tincture or that spray, or this gel cap, or whatever, but it's -- it's real, it's an important part of it.

And people talk about -- you know, I've heard, been at conferences where you've got sort of pharma interested in cannabinoids, and kind of hybrids of pharma and hemp, and then cannabis and, you know, everybody has their own angle on this stuff. But, yeah, there's something missing from that stuff, too, and it's -- yeah. Lost my train there.

DOUG MCVAY: Well, I know what you mean, that's a thing I love about this place, you know, and the people doing it, they weren't doing it to try and create the million dollar venue, or a brand that they could then market and make a mint. They're doing it because they want to see positive change, and they needed to do something, and, you know, mass education, what the heck, you know, draw the people in with music and hit them up with the politics, and throw in some science, and some -- just give them knowledge. I mean, you've got to get the people there somehow, and so these stages really, I mean, this is --

MARTIN LEE: You know what it is? It's, as this whole, whatever you call it, a green rush, particularly around CBD, is driving a lot of that, particularly into our mainstream -- I mean, you can get CBD products in gas stations and food markets, and it's completely outside the dispensary system in that way, too, it's just jumped the whole boundary.

You know, so this is happening, big time, and there's a kind of cockiness, on the part of the pharma folks, and the folks that kind of, you know, playing the seams between pharma and over the counter and this and that and maneuvering their way around the FDA, and kind of putting together, you know, a little bit of this cannabinoid and a little bit of that, and a little bit of bleeding out the THC, if need be, and a very cocky attitude. Oh no, we're not going to sell this in dispensaries. As if.

Dispensaries are important institutions, not just because you can get weed there, but mostly because they're community centers. People meet each other there, you know, they're focal points of community, and that's a very important part of what that's all about. It's also a community where people who are very sick go, and get -- and benefit from, and are accepted by people who aren't as sick. Everybody -- hold on.

DOUG MCVAY: That's very true, and, people don't always want -- the friendly pharmacist is a thing, you know, that's a nice idea, but --

MARTIN LEE: And also, there's a sort of presumption there that people -- you hear that in some provinces in Canada, pharmacies are going to sell recreational weed. You know, the presumption is that the pharmacist is going to know something about this that a non-pharmacist wouldn't. Which is not the case. You know, there's a certain -- there's a sort of, there's a skill set, there's a niche. Budtending is a very honorable position, they should be paid better, so that they have more loyalty and stay.

You know, money should be invested in educating budtenders more, and so forth, and you don't have to be a pharmacist to be a good conveyor of cannabis medicine. Just know what your limits are. I mean, don't pretend to be something you're not. But, you know, as a group, pharmacy world has not been all that impressive. GW Pharma, they're going to -- they shouldn't be selling weeds at pharmacies.

Selling Epidiolex? No problem. Maybe even some of these other hemp products, if they could ever f****** regulate them, which is what they really need to do, you know. The CBD stuff is busting at the seams. Our main concern is, can we regulate this somewhat, so that maybe we know it's safe and properly labeled? That's the only thing I'd like to see at this point, you know, in addition to easy access, which is already there, if you can get it at, you know, at every gas station in America, practically, you can get this stuff, these bulls**** CBD products.

And in the midwest, in the dispensaries, even though you'd expect better. CBD products in dispensaries are -- the gummies. Melted down, CBD isolate injected into it, and then re-formed into this thing with all the artificial colors, artificial flavors, and a dab of CBD. That's what you get, and wrapped in plastic. Properly labeled as to the contents, so you can see corn syrup and everything else, at least that. But they're terrible products, that's what you get.

DOUG MCVAY: You make it sound really appetizing.

MARTIN LEE: Well, but this is what you get in dispensaries, medical dispensaries, in the midwest. So, in states where medical marijuana is legal.

You know, so they've got this whole thing going on everywhere, what a mess, really, in CBD. It's obviously something we follow very closely. But it's also a -- it's been, to think, way back when, when Fred Gardner and I first got involved, you know, with the CBD stuff, between the two of us, as journalists, we had -- and we realized the potential significance, when these strains we discovered in northern California in 2009, 2010, these interesting CBD-rich, as we called them. A lot of CBD and a lot of THC, but a lot of CBD in there.

And -- but they weren't high CBD and low THC, they were very -- once in a while, it was the anomaly, for sure. It was more just CBD was present, and it was very exciting, not just because, like wow, this is going to be interesting, you know, in terms of the medicinal applications of cannabis, this is a whole new thing. Well, not a new thing so much as another door we need to -- it could be very significant for, not just the medical marijuana world, but that it could be -- it could break the back of prohibition.

That it was really going to be something very, very difficult for the drug war establishment to deal with. CBD is going to like, f*** you to them, and it has. Except, hey, you know, the counter thing is just CBD, no THC, you know, good cannabinoid versus the bad cannabinoid. But the fact of the matter is, CBD has broken through to the point where, even though it's still federally illegal, all the CBD stuff, really, unless it comes from these very, you know, prescribed farm bill, you know, pilot programs, which are not supposed to be -- all of it's illegal, and yet it's everywhere.

At the community market, at the Whole Foods, at the gas stations, at the massage studios, sometimes chiropractors, you know. And it's illegal. And it's everywhere. And, CBD broke through.

And the other thing that it's done is reactivated industrial hemp. It's the reason why industrial hemp is growing in the United States again. And there's no pretense, in terms of, about -- nobody pretends that CBD is not really what this is all about, the Senators from Kentucky pushing this thing. Because it's explicit, for biomass, for CBD extractions. It will be legal very soon. Amazing.

What's going to happen now? We don't know. But it's -- it attests to the power of cannabis as a medicine, and it's kind of a -- kind of a psychological breakthrough, because for people who are outside the cannabis sphere, the idea that it can have health benefits and not get you high, really, you know, very irresistible, that idea is really compelling to a lot of people.

And that's okeh with me. That's, you know, with any luck, they'll learn that they like getting high. But that's another matter. If CBD can be the gateway to THC, I think that's -- [laughter]. Anyway, it's -- it's a powerful thing, and really has, kind of our hunches about it were correct, but it so unleashed the furies, that it's way beyond anything, now, you know, it really is driving legalization in a lot of ways but it's also a cul-de-sac.

It's a way of driving legalization over the next step. Legalizing industrial hemp, that's huge, and CBD legal in pretty much every -- almost every state now, there's like two or three holdouts maybe. And even then, it's basically legal everywhere, even de facto, you can get it everywhere, there's a s***load of products.

So --

DOUG MCVAY: One moment.

MARTIN LEE: It's a wild -- well, it's a wild time. It really, really there's a sense of, the whole situation with cannabis, I mean, it's not like CBD is the be-all and end-all, there's a huge pro-cannabis cultural shift already underway. But CBD came, it kind of puncuated it, catalyzed onto another level, in both these spheres, but it's certainly, for industrial hemp coming back, and for medical marijuana, giving it a -- no discussion, it's real. You know. And it doesn't have to get you high, that's just, like, whoa. It's a s***storm that's unleashed.

But it's also, you know, there's money there, lot of money, and, you know, Republican Senators, the people you hate on any other issue. They're the ones leading the charge. You know, but they're going to get it done, this thing. It's -- it's a weird thing. I mean, the Farm Bill, on the House side, it's just god-awful, what a horrible piece of legislation, that's Trumpian, really hurt the poor. You know, horrible.

And hemp isn't part of that, but, you know, it's supposed to be merged with the Senate bill, you know. I think that hemp is going to go through, that's what it seems like, but who knows what kind of dreck that's going to go through. I don't know. It's all -- but it's kind of, yeah, it's amazing, but it's like if the -- I think it means, not like a -- oddly enough, it's really a crossing a line, crossing a threshold, and not exactly that the situation's going to stay the same, fundamentally, in terms of a lot of confusion, a lot of uncertainty.

The DEA will weigh in and schedule CBD. It may not schedule it the same way as Epidiolex will be scheduled. We don't know that's going to be, we don't know what the FDA is going to do. The, you know, the FDA is -- normally it would play a role, but if it -- if it does what it normally is supposed to do in these situations, it could take out the CBD hemp industry. But, you couldn't take it out because there's such a huge consumer demand.

All these things are lining up, and we're going to see this unfold. It's quite a moment, it really is, an enormous step. But, you know, step back. Well what do we want from this? I mean, bottom line, we want safe access, easy access. We sort of have easy access now, in a weird way, but you want a high quality, regulated, authenticated, good quality medicine.

You know, it has certain standards, and it's tested, and confirmed that it's that. That's got to be a part of this. And, the hemp industry seems to be very, not so happy with that, I feel. Or, they get very upset about that part of it, you know, that's -- there was a whole big brouhaha in California recently, I don't know if you've caught that, a couple of weeks ago.

The Department of Health issued a statement about CBD, the legality, and it's caused an uproar in the hemp world, because basically it said that the Cannabis Control Bureau has -- that it governs the process, the only way you can do a legally -- a legal CBD product, part of a legal industry in California, is you'd be governed by the Cannabis Control Bureau.

You have to be growing in California, by a licensed grower. Manufactured by a licensed producer, the product distributed by a licensed distributor, to a retail outlet, or outlets, that are licensed. It's a closed loop system. And that comes along with a set of expectations about the quality of the product, and certain quality control measures to make sure there's no hanky-panky with the producers and the labs, that they, you know, I'll scratch your back.

No, it's the distributor that has to confirm what -- that the label is properly labeled, that the pesticide levels are within, you know, certain -- that's a good thing, to do that, in our opinion. But, right now, you don't have that, you just have the government completely abdicating, saying that it's illegal, looking the other way, actually. And it's totally unregulated. A lot of the products are mislabeled, a lot of products are poor quality. And that's what you have now.

So, I think it's going to continue like that for a while. They might just sort of let -- it's really going to be interesting to see how the FDA responds to this, and what they actually do, now that they Epidiolex is, you know, from GW's, been approved. That big factor, too, plus the whole hemp thing, in the Farm Bill. It's got those two major factors that are hanging over the whole topography of medical cannabis, but particularly the CBD part of it, you know.

And this -- well, I think that with -- it still can be delayed, is what this really means. There's so many contradictions, that if you just legalize hemp, the way they define hemp, it's not really workable, in the real world, because, if you grow hemp, whatever you're calling it, it's less than point three percent THC now, that's what it's supposed to be, but, in our mind, that's low-resin plants, is what hemp is.

And you extract from that. When you extract, you concentrate it, so anything that's point three percent THC is going to be more when it's in your oil, along with the CBD is going to be more also.

So, now --

DOUG MCVAY: That's the point of concentration, that's sort of -- yeah.

MARTIN LEE: But, that means, what they're saying, no you can't have a product out there that's more than point three percent, then you have to take that and change it into another thing, where it meets the standards that the industry -- the --

DOUG MCVAY: They're bound and determined to make this -- they're bound and determined to talk over us.

MARTIN LEE: But it's crazy, what -- it's not really enforceable, they're, you know, we say hemp, when we talk about what hemp's growing, even for CBD, hemp wink wink. You mean the marijuana hemp that they're growing, and taking it down early, and yeah, a lot of people are growing hemp wink wink. It's easier to get the license, and da da da.

You know, there's all kinds of things going on. But pretty much -- so it's one percent THC rather than zero point three, does it make a difference? No, not really, it's better for medicine actually, a little bit. Higher CBD, better plants, but they're not hemp. That's the reality.

It means, to end up with a product that qualifies as less than point three percent THC, any -- someone has to break federal and state law for that to happen in the process of that, because they're going to be concentrating it, and at one point in the process of making this product, they will be federally and state illegal.

So, okeh, can you do -- oh, can we have some assurances about that, please? You know, I mean, if that's the reality, and it is, and you know, these f****** a******* at the DEA will do anything to f****** mess around with this thing, you know? I mean, you can expect -- how are they going to schedule CBD? I mean, after the World Health Organization and the Olympic Anti-Doping Agency all give CBD a clean bill of health, what is the DEA going to do? You know, they're under some pressure here, you know?

DOUG MCVAY: That was part of my conversation with the journalist and author Martin Lee. Martin is also co-founder and director of Project CBD, on the web at ProjectCBD.org.

You are listening to Century of Lies. We’re a production of the Drug Truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation Radio Network, on the web at DrugTruth.net. I’m your host Doug McVay, editor of DrugWarFacts.org.

This week, it’s part two of our coverage of Seattle Hempfest 2018. I’ve had the honor of speaking at Seattle Hempfest every year for more than a decade. It’s an awesome event, four stages, nonstop music and speakers, vendors, food.

You know, I was born and raised in Iowa, and to me, Hempfest is like a massive state fair, only without the livestock. One of the things I love about Hempfest is that it’s like a huge family reunion, bringing together folks from around the country including dozens of people I know and love and have worked with over the years. And you know, though I have been doing this a very long time and I’m pretty well networked, I still meet new, interesting people every year at Hempfest.

This year was no exception. One of the people I had the honor to meet this year was Joelle Puccio. She’s a registered nurse and harm reduction advocate. I heard her speaking at the Hemposium stage on a panel about bias against people who use marijuana. Caught up with her afterward and got this interview.

JOELLE PUCCIO: I'm Joelle Puccio, I'm a Bachelor's of Science in Nursing, BSN RN.

DOUG MCVAY: Right on. I didn't get a chance to record the presentation, but you were just here on the Hemposium stage speaking. Could you give us a summary, just sort of summarize what you were talking about?

JOELLE PUCCIO: Well, we touched on a lot of different topics. It was basically about normalization of cannabis use, and one of the things that I wanted to talk about a lot is that, in order to normalize cannabis use, we need to normalize a true interpretation of the research around cannabis use, particularly with pregnancy and breastfeeding, because what the research tells us, and how that gets translated into legal policy as well as hospital policy, is -- are two different things, and we're not following the evidence on cannabis, or frankly any other drug use, either.

We grossly over-exaggerate the risks of using any substances in pregnancy, except for the legal ones, which are by far the most dangerous, and those would be alcohol and tobacco.

The other thing that we talked about a little bit was how we need to be intersectional, and we need to be strategic with the way that we want to normalize cannabis use, because people who use cannabis are in all kinds of communities. People who use cannabis are the same people that use heroin, and people who use cannabis are the same people that use meth, and if we only want to partner with groups that we like or that are sexy, or that we think will help our cause, then that's not true partnership and that's not true intersectionality.

We need to partner with everybody in our community, because otherwise we lose the talent of those groups and we lose the capital that we could have if we all join together, and joining together just makes us stronger.

DOUG MCVAY: So, you're going to be speaking again at one of these other stages shortly. A little substantive, a little more -- but, what are you hoping that the crowds are going to take away from all you're saying?

JOELLE PUCCIO: So, my next talk is going to be about safer consumption spaces, which are clinics where people can bring their drugs and use drugs, usually injectable drugs, in the presence of a healthcare provider. They provide overdose prevention, safer injection education, they hook people up with healthcare, housing, mental health, all kinds of other services, and there needs to be one in every neighborhood.

If you want to see less needles in your alleys and your parks, if you want to have less people dying in your Starbucks bathrooms, then you need to ask for a safer consumption space in your neighborhood. YesToSCS.org.

DOUG MCVAY: That is terrific, I'm grateful to you. That's, again, that's what I've been talking about here, too. Any closing thoughts for listeners, and are you on social media at all? Tell us how to find something about the work you're doing.

JOELLE PUCCIO: I, for employment reasons, had to scale back my social media outreach, but, I would recommend that people check out NationalPerinatal.org. That's where I'm working on the Perinatal Substance Use Work Group. Also check out National Advocates for Pregnant Women, that's AdvocatesForPregnantWomen.org. And the Family Law and Cannabis Alliance, FLCAlliance.org.

And those are really good places, too, if you're expecting or if you're parenting and you have questions about what your rights are and how to protect yourself and your family. You can go there for some resources.

DOUG MCVAY: Joelle, thank you so much.

JOELLE PUCCIO: Thanks.

DOUG MCVAY: That was my interview with Joelle Puccio, she’s a registered nurse and harm reduction advocate who spoke at this year’s Seattle Hempfest.

Another person I met this year is Professor Michele Bedard-Gilligan. Professor Bedard-Gilligan is a PhD who teaches at the University of Washington, and she’s the principal investigator for something called Project STEP at the UW. STEP stands for Short Term Exposure for PTSD. I’ll let her tell you about it.

MICHELE BEDARD-GILLIGAN, PHD: So, I'm Doctor Michele Bedard-Gilligan, and I'm an assistant professor at the University of Washington in the Department of Psychology and Behavioral Sciences.

DOUG MCVAY: And, you're here at Hempfest talking about Project STEP. Tell me about it.

MICHELE BEDARD-GILLIGAN, PHD: So, Project STEP is a research study that we have going on. It's funded by the National Institute of Drug Abuse, and what it's looking at is it's trying to explore the effects of cannabis on PTSD recovery. So, recovery of post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms.

DOUG MCVAY: Are -- are you taking people who are already in some kind of treatment, are you, I mean, mostly people who are in some sense self-medicating, or what?

MICHELE BEDARD-GILLIGAN, PHD: So, either or. So we're taking individuals who meet criteria for PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, so have prominent symptoms that are causing them impairment and are using cannabis on a regular basis. So daily or near daily.

And some folks are using it, you know, under the care of a prescriber, some people are using it recreationally. It sort of depends. And either is fine, but we're looking for individuals with that co-occurrence, so that PTSD and then the regular cannabis use.

And what we're looking at is to see how they respond to a PTSD therapy. So we're giving a very brief, six-session therapy. We can give it over the course of two weeks. The sessions are pretty close to daily, and we want to see how individuals who have PTSD and are using cannabis in this way respond to that treatment.

DOUG MCVAY: Fascinating. I need to ask, would you be monitoring for other drug use, would -- or would other drug therapies sort of create conflicts with your data?

MICHELE BEDARD-GILLIGAN, PHD: So, yes, we do monitor for other drug use. So we ask people to be stable on prescription medications for three months prior to enrolling in the trial, so that we can see, kind of isolate the effects of the cannabis use specifically.

Other drug use, or other substance use like alcohol, or other, you know, recreational substances, sometimes they are accepted, sometimes they're not, it just sort of depends on how often it's being used, and again, we need to isolate the effects of cannabis so we want to have as clear of a sample as we can, in terms of who enrolls in the trial.

DOUG MCVAY: Now, do -- would participants have to be residents of Washington, and how would people become involved in your trial?

MICHELE BEDARD-GILLIGAN, PHD: Great question. So, you don't have to be a resident of Washington, but you do have to be available to attend therapy sessions, so the treatment sessions, again, we do about six of them. They're usually scheduled over the course of two weeks, so if someone can come and visit Seattle for two weeks and come do therapy here, that's great. They can come from anywhere. But most of our participants are local.

And you can find out about our trial by going to our website, so www.UWProjectSTEP.org, that's www.UWProjectSTEP.org.

DOUG MCVAY: That was my interview with Professor Michele Bedard-Gilligan from the University of Washington. Doctor Gilligan is the principal investigator with UW's Project STEP, Short Term Exposure for PTSD. I met her at Seattle Hempfest, where they were looking for volunteers. People interested in Project STEP, maybe interested in becoming a research volunteer, can find out more at the website UWProjectSTEP.org.

And that's all the time we have this week. I want to thank you for joining us. You have been listening to Century of Lies. We're a production of the Drug Truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation Radio Network, on the web at DrugTruth.net. I’m your host Doug McVay, editor of DrugWarFacts.org.

The executive producer of the Drug Truth Network is Dean Becker. Drug Truth Network programs are available via podcast, the URLs to subscribe are on the network home page at DrugTruth.net.

The Drug Truth Network is on Facebook, please give its page a like. Drug War Facts is on Facebook too, give its page a like and share it with friends. Remember: Knowledge is power. Follow me on Twitter, I'm @DougMcVay and of course also @DrugPolicyFacts.

We'll be back next week with thirty more minutes of news and information about drug policy reform and the drug war. For now, for the Drug Truth Network, this is Doug McVay saying so long. So long!

For the Drug Truth Network, this is Doug McVay asking you to examine our policy of drug prohibition: the century of lies. Drug Truth Network programs archived at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy.